Wednesday, August 10, 2022

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1,000 special valuable items gone with the winds of struggle

Official authorities reported that nearly 1,000 special items, including items of antique value plus files with important documents, computers, laptops and rare books have gone missing from places including the Presidential Palace and Temple Trees, which were taken over by the protesters.

According to police sources, special investigations have been started to find those items.

Information has been revealed to the investigation teams that some people have concealed and taken away parts of some antiques out of these places.

Meanwhile, it is reported that the Department of Archeology does not have any specific recorded information about the antiques, even though the Presidential Palace has been declared as a historic place through a gazette notification.

A senior official of the Department of Archeology told Sunday Lankadeepa that it will be difficult to get specific and clear information about the destroyed and missing antiques.

As the Presidential Palace had been maintained as a high-security special zone for a long time, due to the practical problems of visiting the place and gathering information, no such gathering of information has taken place.

But the archeological officials admit that there were many articles of ancient value in the Presidential Palace.

Officials of the Criminal Investigation Department said that various criminals and drug addicts have infiltrated the state buildings including the President’s House, Temple Trees, under the guise of protesters, and that these people have done most of the thefts.

Meanwhile, the government has already decided to strictly implement the law against the people who occupied government buildings under the guise of struggle.

Forensic experts and Criminal Investigations Department detectives recently moved in to investigate the damage. Police said they would make use of the CCTV footage available.

As the protestors took control, large crowds queued up to enter the building, but it is learnt that along with them several unscrupulous elements, too, had entered. With no one in control, they were a law unto themselves.

Some took pictures and selfies. But there were others who crossed the line. They slept on the beds, couches, and sofas and used the washrooms and the gymnasium.

Some people were seen pulling and touching the paintings which had remained untouched and were not even on display for the public, officials said.

The Archeology Department also expressed concern over the damage caused to the colonial-era buildings that were occupied by protesters and opened to public view.

Pointing out that archeologically important items, antiques, and cultural artifacts had been damaged in the President’s House and other state buildings that were stormed by the protesters, Archeology Department Director General Anura Manathunga called for speedy and effective measures to protect them from further damage and theft.

When the building came to be occupied, Prof Manathunga appealed to the public not to remove or damage archeologically valued objects. He warned that under the Archeology Ordinance, the department had powers to take legal action against miscreants.

However, it appears that the appeal has gone unheeded, as some valuable items have gone missing. Even the railings of a sidewalk had not been spared.

Also vandalized was the Prime Minister’s official residence Temple Trees, a British colonial-era building that was used by a colonial secretary and later by two presidents.

Senior Archeology Department officials who visited the President’s House, the Presidential Secretariat and Temple Trees said the protesters who stormed the buildings had failed to take care of the buildings and their belongings.

They said these buildings of historical value and national importance should not be subjected to vandalism.

One official said they only made observations but believed that a thorough investigation should be done to assess the full value of the damage.

Speaking on anonymity, he said the President’s House red carpet was one of the oldest red carpets and an archaeological treasure dating back to the colonial era.

He said the carpet would be beyond repair if it continued to be trampled by thousands of people. The carpets at both the Secretariat and Temple Trees, too, have similar values.

The official said chairs belonging to the Dutch period and plates and cutlery sets belonging to different colonial periods had been taken out, frames of paintings broken, windows shattered and graffiti drawn on walls.

He said in some areas walls and the floor had been damaged by people looking for hidden passageways and secret rooms.

Protesters, however, said some furniture, vases and other items were damaged because the crowd was overwhelming.

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